Creighton Burns, the wise old editor of The Age from 1981 to 1989, used to reassure insecure cadets that one individual in the newsroom had less job security than they did — and that was him. He served at the company’s pleasure. If it was withdrawn, he had no recourse. A sacked cadet might get until the end of day to clean their desk out. A sacked editor would be out as soon as the next lift arrived.
An echo of this could be heard in June when Fairfax Media announced the first three casualties of its new digital strategy would be three editors: Paul Ramage at The Age, Peter Fray and Amanda Wilson at The Sydney Morning Herald. In the national configurations envisioned, there was no scope for local bosses. To George Megalogenis at The Australian, this clean sweep of the senior-most positions at Fairfax held an obvious portent. “The power used to reside in editors and producers — at newspapers, at radio and television networks. They’re dead now.”